Higher Learning Commission dismisses faculty challenges against Bluefield State University

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 3:11 PM EST
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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WVVA) - After previous complaints by four faculty members at Bluefield State University, the school has now been cleared by the Higher Learning Commission of any wrong doing. The faculty members challenged the school’s changes to their faculty representation, hiring policies and post tenure review. The university says all of these changes were done in a legal manner.

The faculty members also said the school got rid of their office for equity, diversity and inclusion which the university says is not true.

“We felt very confident that we were going to prevail in this. We’re just hoping the fact that we got this decision will get some of these issues behind us and we can move forward. We hope it brings great comfort to our faculty and staff and students also to know that our accreditation is sound and good and we’re going to be able to move forward,” said BSU President, Robin Capehart.

The full statement from the university on the topic can be read below.

Complaints from four Bluefield State faculty members to the University’s accreditation criteria have been summarily dismissed by the Higher Learning Commission. Despite totaling over 150 pages, the Higher Learning Commission found no basis to support the any of the challenges of the four faculty members.

The four faculty members, Amanda Matoushek, Sean Connolly, Darrel Malamisura, and Vanessa Godfrey, challenged recent actions by the Board of Governors to improve the University with its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission. These improvements include enhancing learning outcomes and academic objectives, expanding meaningful faculty participation in shared governance, strengthening faculty communications with the Board, and modernizing tenure and hiring practices at Bluefield State.

In a January 23rd, 2023, letter to Bluefield State President Robin Capehart, the HLC noted that Bluefield State University, “provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the matters raised in the complaints do not indicate substantive noncompliance with the HLC [accreditation] requirement.”

“None of the four complaints included in a 155-page document were found to have merit,” BSU President Robin Capehart said. “The decision to summarily dismiss these complaints by the HLC, is an endorsement of an overwhelming majority of our faculty, staff and Board of Governors and the hard work and commitment they’ve made to our university,” Capehart added.

“Bluefield State’s actions confirm its commitment to its mission, its dedication to the public good and its focus on ensuring an excellent education for its students,” said Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brent Benjamin. “The complaints highlighted factual inaccuracies and legal misstatements which some individuals have recently made against Bluefield State’s Board of Governors and the University’s administration. I’m pleased that the Higher Learning Commission found in our University’s favor in view of the potential adverse impact the complaints made by these faculty members could have had on our school’s accreditation and to our employees’ wellbeing,” he added. (Bluefield State University’s response can be viewed at: https://bit.ly/hlc-response )

The Higher Learning Commission is the regional accrediting body of higher education institutions in an 18-state region, including West Virginia. In June 2022, following a rigorous self-study and peer-review process, the Commission granted Bluefield State accreditation through 2032, making Bluefield State one of only three institutions in West Virginia to earn the Commission’s maximum level of accreditation.